N.Y.C: Infectious Diseases From Rat Urine On The Rise

Members of 'The Ryder's Alley Trencher-fed Society (R.A.T.S.)' meet with their dogs to vermin control a neighborhood in lower Manhattan on May 14, 2021 in New York City. - Late one Friday night, eight dog enthusiasts and their pet pooches prowl several dark alleys in New York with one mission: to hunt and kill as many rats as possible. The dogs, mostly terriers, pant and strain at their leashes before diving into trash bags and emerging seconds later with a convulsing rodent between their teeth. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP) (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)
US-HEALTH-VIRUS-ANIMAL-RATS Members of ‘The Ryder’s Alley Trencher-fed Society (R.A.T.S.)’ meet with their dogs to vermin control a neighborhood in lower Manhattan on May 14, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

OAN’s Abril Elfi
1:32 PM – Wednesday, April 17, 2024

The New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has released a health advisory after human infections from rat urine have been on the rise. 


The department said that there were 24 cases of leptospirosis in the city in 2023 which is higher than any prior year.

Health officials added that in the first four months of 2024, there have already been six cases in the city. 

“For comparison, the average number of locally acquired cases during 2021 to 2023 was 15 per year, and 3 cases per year during 2001 to 2020,” health officials said. “This year, 6 cases have been reported as of April 10, 2024.”

“Among the 98 locally acquired cases reported from 2001 to 2023, the median case age was 50 years (range 20 to 80 years), usually male (94%) and, reported most often from the Bronx (37), followed by Brooklyn (19), Manhattan (28), Queens (10), and Staten Island (4),” said the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

They continued stating that those who are suffering from severe leptospirosis have acute renal and hepatic failure and, occasionally, severe pulmonary issues. However, symptoms may include fever, headache, chills, muscle aches, vomiting, diarrhea, cough, conjunctival suffusion, jaundice, and rash.

According to the department, there were a total of six deaths by leptospirosis from 2001 to 2023 in New York City. 

“In NYC, locally acquired cases typically have a history of a residential or occupational exposure to rat urine or environments (including soil and water) and materials contaminated with rat urine (e.g., handling trash bags or bins containing food waste), health officials said in their press release regarding the uptick in cases of leptospirosis. “Person-to-person transmission is rare. The NYC Health Department conducts inspections and works with property owners to remediate rat conditions, if indicated.”

They continue saying that leptospira bacteria are fragile and can die within minutes in dry heat or freezing temperatures.

“The cold winters of NYC likely limit the extent to which leptospires can survive in the environment,” health officials said. “However excessive rain and unseasonably warm temperatures, factors associated with climate change, may support the persistence of leptospires in more temperate areas like NYC.”

Health officials said that in 2023, half of the locally acquired cases were reported in the months of June and October which are the months that were warmer and wetter due to excessive rain. 

Leptospirosis cases have to be reported to the NYC Health Department within 24 hours. The CDC and NYC Health Department websites have additional details about the disease.

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